Increased Protection in Wild Tiger Campaign

Increased Protection in Wild Tiger Campaign


On November 21, 2012, the Agency for International Development (USAID) announced it is providing more support for Project Predator under INTERPOL.  Project Predator helps the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) protect wild tigers. 

The U.S. Ambassador to India and Bhutan Nancy Powell made the announcement at the Second Asian Ministerial on Tiger Conservation.  The event is organized annually by the Royal Government of Bhutan and the Global Tiger Initiative.

Ministers that attended the Second Asian Ministerial on Tiger Conservation were from 13 different countries containing wild tiger populations.  The recent meeting focused on important achievements in conservation and the implementation of a 12-year conservation strategy and ensured political support would continue. 

The same countries that attended this year’s meeting approved the Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP) during 2010 in Russia. 

Ambassador Powell stated: “Protecting our living natural resources, especially endangered species, has increasingly become an issue impacting the security of nations because of massive upsurges in international wildlife trafficking.  We need to recognize wildlife crime as a serious crime that undermines good governance and rule of law.” 

Project Predator is an initiative crated by INTERPOL that aids in the conservation of wild tigers while respecting countries’ rules and government.  Since its creation, the project has provided seminars on police, customs, and wildlife.  The seminars have helped enforcement agencies in other countries identify signs of tiger poaching and underground trading. 

David Higgins, the manager of the Environmental Crime Programme under INTERPOL, stated: “This additional financial support from USAID will assist INTERPOL's global and regional networks of national police and enforcement agencies in their continued efforts support the tiger range countries in ensuring that we protect the wild tiger population and target those criminals who are attempting to undermine efforts to conserve this iconic species.” 

In 2011, USAID provided monetary support for the creation and launch of Project Predator.  The project has helped Bhutan, China, India, and Nepal confront the killings of protected tigers in their countries.  So far, the countries have made 40 arrests and seizures of big cat skins and other body parts. 

Mary Melnyk, the Senior Advisor of Natural Resources Management for Asia and the Middle East for USAID, stated: “USAID is supporting INTERPOL not only because of its international network and communications systems to track down criminals, but also to encourage the greater participation of police in cracking down on wildlife crime.”

Source: Agency for International Development

New Recreational Water Quality Criteria Recommended

New Recreational Water Quality Criteria Recommended


On November 26, 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended that states need to harness new and improved water quality criteria and testing for recreational water areas.  The recommendations were made with favor from a U.S. District Court and requirements under the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act of 2000. 

The new water quality criteria will make sure visitors are protected as they visit beaches and other bodies of water throughout the year.  The criteria can better protect the public and quality of water by observing waterborne illnesses more efficiently, measuring water pollution after heavy rainfalls more quickly, and more. 

It is important to note that the recommended criteria do not mandate new requirements.  The recommendations simply serve as an example of tools that states can choose to adopt in their overall standards and state or territorial environmental protection agencies.

The new criteria provide states and communities with the most updated scientific information about particular areas, particularly public water bodies like beaches.  The updated information can help the state or community issue a beach, lake, or stream closure more quickly. 

The new criteria were established by the EPA after several scientific and health studies confirmed some waterborne illnesses (including some stomach illnesses) can occur without a fever.  The period required for monitoring water samples was reduced from 90 day to 30 days.  The new water quality data will create more accurate water trends and improve advisories. 

Some of the other recommendations include the following:

·  short-term and long-term testing of bacteria levels in water

·  improved recommendations for coastal waters to make sure public health is protected equally in coastal and fresh waters

·  a quicker water-testing method that allows the state to see if the water is safe within hours

·  tools that can predict problems with water quality and find sources of pollution quickly

The increased testing of bacteria levels was recommended because the criteria in 1986 called for a certain amount of testing depending on the beach usage.  The new recommendations replaced the testing/intensity standard and recommended a precautionary testing method for states. 

Predictive modeling will pair with epidemiological studies and other information like microbial risk assessments to predict outbreaks in the future.  The new and faster testing method recommended by the EPA uses a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and a quick analytical technique to detect a type of bacteria called curable enterococci. 

Source: Environmental Protection Agency

Maine Modernizing State Mining Regulations

Maine Modernizing State Mining Regulations


On November 19, 2012, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced it was hiring a Michigan firm and Maine subcontractor to update state mining rules that have not been changed in decades. 

The Michigan firm, North Jackson Company, is an environmental and engineering firm located in the Marquette Mineral District.  The firm will work with the state DEP over the next 18 months to make changes and provide environmental insight to the mining rules that have not been changed in 20 years.  The changes are required by a bipartisan law passed by the state’s 125th Legislature. 

The North Jackson Company received a $175,000 contract because they have experience in mineral mining regulations.  They have also helped the state of Michigan make changes to their old mining rules.  The Maine subcontractor, S.W. Cole Engineering, Inc., with provide consulting in geotechnical engineering, Maine environmental regulations, and landscape information to the Michigan firm. 

DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho emphasized that minerals can be recovered in a way that is environmentally sound for the air, land and water—as long as the state’s minding rules are updated.

She also stated: “Our selection of partners with reputations for providing reliable technical information through rigorous science that allows their clients to make sound environmental management decisions demonstrates this process is one we take seriously. We look forward to working with the North Jackson Company and S.W. Cole as we undertake this important work together.”

After the legislature and DEP agreed to update mining rules, a large number of advertisements were sent to members of the National Mining Association and Interstate Mining Compact.  The North Jackson Company was selected because they were the most qualified. 

The updated rules will address surface water protection and waste rock management as well as ensure that all proposed mining operations prove financially reasonable environmentally and for state citizens. 

Commissioner Aho continued: “DEP’s promise is that as this process moves forward, it will be thoughtful and transparent and if mining activity is carried out in Maine as a result of these regulatory updates, it will be done in a responsible, respectful way that helps Maine and its citizens receive the benefits of the resource while also guaranteeing that environmental protections are upheld and subsequent remediation and closure is adequate.”

More information about the updates can be found on the websites of the Maine DEP, North Jackson Company, or S.W. Cole Engineering. 

Source: Maine Department of Environmental Protection

U.S. Carbon Emissions Fall to Nearly 20-Year Lows

U.S. Carbon Emissions Fall to Nearly 20-Year Lows

New figures show that, energy-saving technologies and a concerted effort in renewables have led to the overall reduction in climate pollution. This drops in climate pollution—even as the U.S. Congress fails to act on climate change in a broad spectrum—brings the United States more than halfway towards President Barack Obama’s goal.

The United States’ carbon dioxide emissions in 2012 fell to their lowest levels since 1994, according to various environmental reports.

Carbon dioxide emissions in the United States fell by 13% in the last five years, due to new energy-saving technologies and a two-fold increase in the practice of renewable energy resources, as confirmed by the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Commission for the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

This reduction in climate pollution brings the United States more than halfway towards President Obama’s target of reducing emissions by 17% from 2005 levels over the next decade.

By the end of 2012, the United States’ emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases had fallen nearly 11% from the 2005 levels. This drop puts President Barack Obama in a better position to defend his environmental policies and achievements, which often go overlooked in the bitter realm of climate science. Moreover, such statistics may bolster America’s standing with global climate regulations.

Lisa Jacobson, acting President of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, said these findings exposed the conservative argument that acting on climate change would hinder the economy—carbon emissions are declining while GDP is rising.

The dramatic decrease in Carbon emissions is attributed to the country’s shift in energy production—Coal fell to 18% in 2012 from 22.5% in 2007 of the nation’s energy mix, and oil use also declined.

Thanks to fracking, natural gas production filled the majority of this gape—the United States received 31% of its electricity from gas-fired plants in 2012.

The report also noted that steadily expanding installations of solar, wind, hydro and geothermal energies have led to the significant drop in Carbon emissions. Renewables represented the largest source of new growth last year, reaching $44 billion.

Over this timeframe, total energy use fell by 6.4% since 2007. The bulk of emissions cut were largely due to installing more efficient cooling and heating systems in commercial locations. Other cuts in emissions came from transport, as 488,000 Americans purchased plug-in or hybrid vehicles.

This mix of energy sources proves that the economy can grow as our reliance on carbon-emitting gases declines.

New Investment in Small Modular Reactor Design and Use

New Investment in Small Modular Reactor Design and Use


On November 20, 2012, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced it was awarding support for the design and licensing of small modular reactors with the United States.  The strategy is parallel with the Obama Administration’s strategy to access every possible source of energy in the United States. 

The funding was announced in March of 2012, and the DOE has just announced the recipient of the award.  The project is led by Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) along with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel.  If strategies stay the same, the DOE plans to solicit other companies and manufacturers to focus on developing small modular reactor designs and operations. 

The investment from the DOE to B&W will help the company receive Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing requirements and begin commercial operations by 2022.  The small modular reactor project will first occur in Tennessee, but the DOE plans to help operations in Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  All of the projects will help U.S. utilities receive power from low carbon sources while increasing export opportunities and U.S. dominance in the world energy market. 

Secretary Chu stated: “The Obama Administration continues to believe that low-carbon nuclear energy has an important role to play in America’s energy future.  Restarting the nation’s nuclear industry and advancing small modular reactor technologies will help create new jobs and export opportunities for American workers and businesses, and ensure we continue to take an all-of-the-above approach to American energy production.” 

The recent projects stands as the first-ever government investment in the design, implementation, and licensing of small modular reactors.  The DOE will invest in about half of the project’s total cost through a five-year cost-share agreement.  Babcock & Wilcox will provide the other half of investment, but the specific amounts toward the project are still being decided by the DOE and B&W. 

Small modular reactors are about one-third the size of traditional nuclear power plants.  The smaller designs increase safety and offer more economically benefits over large nuclear plants.  Also, the small modular reactors can be manufactured at factories then transported to the sites were they can basically be plugged in.  The designs decreased capitol costs and construction costs for nuclear energy. 

Small modular reactors have other benefits as well.  Large reactors cannot be used on some small grids, while small modular reactors can provide power to small grids in a cost-effective way.  The reactors allow greater flexibility for utilities as demands grow. 

Source: Department of Energy

Environmental Protection Agency to Award $569 Million in Funding to Areas Impacted by Hurricane Sandy

Environmental Protection Agency to Award $569 Million in Funding to Areas Impacted by Hurricane Sandy


The United States Environmental Protection Agency announced that will provide grants of $340 million to New York and $229 million to New Jersey for improvements to drinking water treatment facilities that were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. These funds will help storm-ravaged communities in both states as they continue to rebuild and recover from the damage caused by the super storm on October 29th of last year. 
In the aftermath of the super storm, drinking water and wastewater treatment centers in New Jersey and New York were so badly damaged that some could not treat raw sewage or provide safe drinking water to their residents. The funding announcements will give states the ability to further reduce the risks of flood damage and increase the resilience of drinking water and wastewater facilities to withstand the effects of severe storms like Hurricane Sandy. 
“As communities continue to rebuild and recover following the storm, it is crucial that their efforts to rebuild infrastructures such as drinking water and wastewater facilities are approached in a sustainable manner,” said the EPA’s Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe. “This money is a crucial step in the administration’s ongoing effort to provide aid to New Jersey and New York so they can recover and move forward in a way that ensures local communities are stronger than ever.”
“As extreme weather is increasingly becoming the norm, the United States Congress wisely provided these funds to make sure our drinking water and wastewater facilities can withstand storms the size of Hurricane Sandy,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judit Enck. “These funds will help vulnerable communities in New York and New Jersey become more resilient to the effect of weather change.”
The funds will be offered as grants to New York and New Jersey and roughly 40 percent of the funds will provided to New Jersey for both the Drinking Water and Clean Water Revolving fund programs. The determination of how the funds will be allotted to the states was based on the percentage of the population living in counties that were impacted by the storm. 
The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act provided the Environmental Protection Agency with $500 million for Clean Water Revolving Fund and $100 million for the Drinking Water Fund. 
Source: Environmental Protection Agency

Hyundai and Kia Ordered to Lower MPG Estimates

Hyundai and Kia Ordered to Lower MPG Estimates

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently announced that Hyundai Motor America and Kia Motors America are required to lower their fuel economy estimates for most 2012 and 2013 models.  The EPA is requiring the companies to lower the mpg estimates because there were discrepancies in the data.  

Most of the gas mileage is reduced by one to two mpg, but mileage for the Kia Soul is decreasing by six mpg.  The EPA has ordered the two companies to re-label cars on dealer lots with new window stickers containing the corrected estimates.  

Gina McCarthy, an assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, stated: “Consumers rely on the window sticker to help make informed choices about the cars they buy.  EPA’s investigation will help protect consumers and ensure a level playing field among automakers.”

The discrepancies in data were found after the National Vehicle and Fuel Emission Laboratory (NVFEL) proved the gas mileage was lower than marketed.  The laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is used by the EPA to test about 150 to 200 vehicles a year to make sure the data on mileage and emissions is correct.  The EPA indicates that the auditing makes sure tailpipe emission standards are met and public health is protected.  

Before noticing the discrepancies in the data, the EPA received several complaints about the mileage estimates for the Hyundai.  The testing at NVFEL proved the complaints were right in their assumptions.  The EPA reports that the investigation is continuing to expand into different Hyundai and Kia models.  

The mislabeling has occurred twice since 2000, and this case is the first time a large number of models and vehicles have deviated from the data so greatly.  The EPA and the Department of Transportation have corrected their estimates for Hyundai and Kia since the investigation.  

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Pacific Islanders Facing Increasing Threats from Climate Change

Pacific Islanders Facing Increasing Threats from Climate Change


On November 30, 2012, a new report was released at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha that states island communities in the Pacific Ocean are facing extreme changes and dangers to their environment and economies because of climate change. 

The report, call the Pacific Environment and Climate Change Outlook projects that islands in the Pacific Ocean, especially low-lying islands, may faces losses of 18 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) because of climate change.  Rising sea levels, tropical storms, floods, droughts, and unsustainable fishing methods are affecting the lives of an estimated 10 million people. 

The following statistics were released in the report prepared by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP):

·  organic waste and chemical waste—especially from mining—have become extensive

·  60 percent of reptiles, 21 percent of mammal species, and 13 percent of birds are threatened in the region

·  leaks in water systems affect about 50 percent of the water supply

·  water conservation practices are not being adopted

·  the sustainable harvest of fish species is reaching limits

·  the catching of the four main tuna species has increased 1000 percent since 1960

·  plastics serve as the biggest environmental threat in the Pacific islands

The report claims that policymakers have done little to protect against environmental change in the area.  Additionally, increased mining activities and the transition to cash crops like palm oil instead of more environmentally-friendly crops have resulted in less biodiversity and land preservation. 

The report makes several recommendations to help the Pacific islands fight climate change:

·  island governments need to form multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) along with plans and strategies

·  governments need to implement agreements instead of just endorsing agreements to stop lower hazardous waste, invasive species, and other environmental damage

·  more awareness needs directed at the public to increase knowledge about the environment

The report covers the following Pacific Island Countries and Territories (including some US Territories): American Samoa, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna. 

Achim Steiner, the UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, states: “Enhancing local capacity to directly monitor, and manage, the impacts of the region's changing environment is essential for reducing climate risks, but also for unlocking the potential economic benefits that a transition to an inclusive, low-carbon and resource efficient green economy can bring.” 

Source: United Nations Environment Programme

Agreement Made with City of Jackson under Clean Water Act

Agreement Made with City of Jackson under Clean Water Act


On November 2012, the Department of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) reached a Clean Water Act settlement with Jackson, Mississippi.  The city failed to meet requirements under the Clean Water Act because overflows of raw sewage and illegal treatment bypasses occurred at the Savanna Street Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).  The facility is the largest water treatment facility in Jackson.

Ignacia S. Moreno, the Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Departments Environment and Natural Resources Division, stated: “The settlement will bring the city into compliance with the nation’s Clean Water Act, requiring significant upgrades to the existing sewer system.   Under the settlement, assistance will be provided to residents to repair sewer connections in lower-income areas that have suffered historically from overflows of untreated sewage.” 

The consent decree orders Jackson to assess all of its sewer systems and make necessary changes through a rehabilitation program.  Improvements to the sewer system will prevent overflows, and a performance evaluation will investigate bypasses of treatment by the WWTP on Savanna Street. 

In addition, the consent decree requires Jackson to develop maintenance programs for pump stations and other facilities, including a water quality monitoring program at WWTP. 

The United States has formed similar agreements with municipalities in recent years.  Similar agreements occurred in Mobile and Jefferson County in Birmingham (Alabama), Atlanta and Dekalb County in Georgia, Memphis, Knoxville and Nashville (Tennessee), Miami-Dade County in Florida, New Orleans in Louisiana, Hamilton County in Cincinnati (Ohio), and Northern Kentucky Sanitarian District #1 and Louisville MSD (Kentucky). 

Enforcement on municipal raw sewage and contaminated stormwater regulations has been a priority of the EPA from 2011 to 2013.  The enforcement has attempted to reduce the risk to the public and environment while encouraging the use of green infrastructure. 

In addition to the conditions under the settlement, the city of Jackson has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $437,916.  The city has also agreed to begin an environmental project valued at $875,000.  The project will reduce the amount of water entering the sewer system by repairing bad private lateral sewer lines and illegal or outdated stormwater connections. 

Cynthia Giles, the Assistant Administrator with the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, states: “EPA is working with cities to protect the nation’s waters from raw sewage overflows that can have significant impacts on people’s health and the environment.  Today’s settlement will lead to improvements in the management of wastewater overflows, which will reduce water pollution and benefit the Jackson community for years to come.” 

Source: Department of Justice


DE Industrial Productivity up 31%; Emissions Down 9%

DE Industrial Productivity up 31%; Emissions Down 9%


According to Delaware’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), industrial facilities throughout the state have considerably fallen since 2010.  Since 1990, industrial facilities throughout the state have reduced on-site releases of chemicals by 91 percent. 

TRI is required for certain industrial facilities in Delaware and the rest of the United States.  Title III, Section 313, of the Federal Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA 313) was passed in 1986 and required industrial facilities to start informing the public about toxic chemicals used around the communities.  Title III of SARA 313 is also called the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). 

During 2011, companies had to report statistics on the use of 593 individual chemicals and 30 chemical categories.  Individual chemicals include toxic and persistent compounds like mercury and other less serious chemicals, and the chemical categories include chemicals like dioxins, PCBs, and more. 

Manufacturing facilities, electric utilities run by oil and coal, and bulk petroleum companies are the most common companies required to submit a TRI.  Reporting is also necessary for companies with 10 or more employees, companies that manufacture or process over 25,000 pounds, or companies that use 10,000 pounds or more of toxic chemicals. 

The companies must report all chemicals that are released into the environment, managed on the site’s grounds, and managed off-site. 

In 2011, 63 different companies reported using 89 TRI-designated chemicals throughout Delaware.  About 3.9 million pounds of the TRI chemicals were released into the environment (2.4 million to the air, 1.2 million to the water, and 279,000 to the land).  Hydrochloric acid releases accounted for 66 percent of air releases, and the majority came from coal power plants. 

Total releases to the air decreased by 1.1 million pounds, or 31 percent.  Releases into the water actually increased by 630,000 pounds, and releases onto land increased by 68,000 pounds. 

Notable decreases in the release of hydrochloric acid were reported by NRG’s Indian River Power Plant and the Edge Moor/Hay Road Power Plant.

Carcinogen releases increased by 28,000 pounds (18 percent) in 2011, and the largest releases were reported by Formosa Plastics, River Power Plant, and the Delaware City Refinery. 

DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara stated:  “Productivity is up and emissions are down.  We are demonstrating in Delaware that we can have both a healthy environment and a strong economy – and we are committed to improving the environmental quality further by working with all industrial facilities to reduce toxic chemical emissions.”

Source: Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control